Friday, July 12, 2013

Another Tale Of Two Cities

This is a tale of two cities ( I know. I've done it before.) and both cities are Washington D.C. I love Washington. It is a great city. The architecture, the monuments, the history makes it one of the worlds great cities. But anyone who has spent any time there realizes that there are two cities with one name on the banks of the Potomac.

Half of Washington has the highest per capita income in the country. It is a town filled to the brim with lobbyists, consultants, government contractors, politicians, and lawyers. Property values are through the overhead if you can find any property available. And if property comes available, I think you have to know the secret handshake to get a shot at it. This is the land of personal chefs and bespoke suits.

The other half of Washington is a town of minorities that live around or below the poverty line.The transition is so sudden and so sharp it is hard to believe both areas are contained in the same sixty-one square miles. This is an area only slightly bigger than Staten Island, NY.

The poorer section of Washington suffers from many problems typical of communities in need, such as crime and drugs. They also suffer from a lack of jobs and simple services such as stores that carry affordable products. The people that live here have to leave the Washington city limits to get to any of the big box stores. For some that is an unendurable hardship.  

The people of Washington were presented a great opportunity when Walmart planned to open three stores immediately with three more planned. This would have given the cities residents a neighborhood source of food, clothing, medicines, hardware, all sorts of good products sold at reasonable prices. Walmart said that, above and beyond the construction jobs, building the stores, they would be hiring eighteen hundred employees. This would have been nothing but good for the community.

But these benefits to the community were not enough  for the D.C. Council. They immediately passed a law where the minimum wage for Walmart was to be fifty percent higher than the minimum wage for everyone else. Council member Vincent B. Orange stated "We're at the point where we don't need retailers. Retailers need us." Well apparently not so much. Walmart immediately stopped construction on the three stores that had been started and cancelled plans for any more. The councilors claim they did this to assure their constituents got a living wage. Well now they won't be getting any wage.

I cannot know what was in the minds of those that stopped this project. I do know that Walmart is a decent neighbor. Their hiring practices are fair. I also know that every job they offered would have had applicants lining up. Well, it looks like another lost opportunity ruined by short sighted politicians.

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